Various Viruses populate a bloodstream

Respiratory Viruses and the Elderly

Impacts of Respiratory Viruses in the Elderly

We’re sure you’ve seen coverage of one of the latest emerging diseases out of China: the Coronavirus. While the virus is considered in its early stages of spreading, it’s becoming a growing health concern as places like China are regulating travel to stop its transmission. So far, approximately 910 people have died from the Coronavirus worldwide, and the number is continuing to rise with cases surpassing 40,000 across the globe. This is where the impacts of respiratory viruses need to be considered in the elderly.

Unfortunately, and as tends to be the case with most outbreaks, the people most severely at risk for contracting it are those who are chronically ill and elderly patients – particularly those with respiratory issues like asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, according to the World Health Organization. As more cases pop up around the world, taking measures to keep yourself protected and healthy is now more important than ever.  The elderly, especially those who may be receiving outside care for health problems, have to be vigilant. 

The Coronavirus and the Elderly

The Coronavirus, also called The 2019 Novel Coronavirus, was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. Futurism says symptoms of the disease include everything from fever and fatigue to severe pneumonia and septic shock. The respiratory virus is currently thought to be spreading through person-to-person contact, much like how influenza distributes. Officials are still working to determine how easily it’s contracted, as well as its sustainability according to the CDC. 

Taking a look back at past outbreaks and diseases, it is often geriatric citizens and younger children who are susceptible. In this case, children seem to be in the clear. So, why are the elderly at a higher risk than the general population? The National Center for Biotechnology Information says: “the classical predisposing factors to viral infections include advanced age, chronic illnesses, and poor immune responses”; and according to Zoomer, it’s because of possible pre-existing comorbidities. For example, they state that adults with Type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of infections, especially lung-related, which essentially means the lungs are bearing the brunt of the Coronavirus. And elderly patients tend to have a more difficult time with having a healthy lung capacity capable of combating such a sickness.

Interestingly enough, this is the worst outbreak since the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, that also originated in China in 2003. The virus is circulating itself similarly to influenza, which kills around 12,000 – 61,000 people annually, with between 9 million – 45 million illnesses being reported since 2010. Health officials, like the World Health Organization’s Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who decided against declaring a global emergency, states that United States citizens aren’t at great risk; but those who exponentially are can follow these tips to keep themselves protected.  

How to Protect Yourself

According to Dr. Tedros, the World Health Organization is closely monitoring the outbreak. They are working on preventing human-to-human transmission of the disease, as well as working on diagnostics, therapeutics, and Coronavirus vaccines. 

Fortunately, there are some basic measures you can take to increase your body’s security and immune system. And staying on top of these efforts, according to the CDC, can help you ward off a potentially dire case.

  • Don’t Touch your Face

With diseases like the Coronavirus or the flu, our hands are often the number one source for virus contaminants. From touching our desk at work to just opening a door at home, we can pick up germs anywhere. Avoiding contact with your eyes, nose, and mouth is crucial so you don’t give the virus to yourself by mistake.

  • Wash Your Hands

An easy, surefire way to keep yourself protected is washing your hands – and washing them frequently – with soap and water. Utilizing a hand sanitizer is also important to remember because thoroughly washing your hands or using a rub with alcohol included will help eliminate the virus on your hands.

  • Respiratory Hygiene

As we all fight off the season’s infections, it can be important to also protect others from ourselves. You can do so by covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and by making sure your waste is discarded and away from other objects or people. This prevents the spread of germs and keeps viruses contained.

  • Social Setting Safety

Because the coronavirus is believed to be spread through touch and close proximity, keeping your distance from people can be a good thing for now. It’s recommended that you put at least 3 feet between you and those around you, especially anyone who is showing signs of illness such as coughing or sneezing.

  • Check on Yourself

If you or a loved one starts showing what could seem like symptoms of the disease, it’s best to head to the doctor. Seeking medical attention and checking on your condition is one way to stay protected or get care if you’ve already contracted anything. If you’re experiencing a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing, you could save your life. 

  • Avoid Travel to China

While harder to achieve, it can be integral to skip travel to affected countries during a time of an outbreak, particularly if you’re already experiencing respiratory issues or have any respiratory conditions.

  • Hygiene after Food and Animal Handling

Officials say the Coronavirus allegedly originated from the Huanan Seafood Market, which also sells wild animals, in Wuhan. Because of this, they originally believed the virus was spread by the handling of animals and their products, as well as sick animals and rotten byproducts.  Further, the CDC recommends avoiding contact with market surfaces and staying away from any animals in close proximity markets, including stray dogs, cats, birds, and more.

  • Don’t Eat Raw or Uncooked Animal Products

Along with visiting markets with extra caution, abstaining from handling and consuming raw meat, milk or animal organs is yet another precaution you can take. You can prevent cross-contamination and avoid unhealthy food safety practices – saving you from some uncomfortable stomach problems at the very least.

How South Coast Post Acute Helps

At South Coast Post Acute, a combination of world-class treatment paired with exceptional care for patients has been at the forefront of what we do for more than 40 years. Our patients’ needs range from post-acute care for the elderly after surgery, to rehabilitation and memory care services. 

While under our care, patients receive the kind of care that we would want for our own loved ones. This means providing individualized care to the unique needs of each resident – including respiratory care. Because we have teams of nurses available 24/7, medicine physicians, specialists, and more, your loved one will get the care they need to get well – and stay well. This includes vaccinations, hygiene care, and health checkups to make sure they’re in the clear as viruses, like the Coronavirus, are top of mind.

Contact us today to learn more about South Coast Post Acute. 

South Coast Post Acute. A team approach to caring.

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